Week 1: Working in an Office

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Sunday, June 12, 2016


Simon Wright

I arrived in dc on May 22nd, with two weeks to go before I started my internship. Even as I enjoyed the beginning of summer, I started to feel a little bit anxious about starting this job. My anxiety really didn’t have much to do with the work itself — I had already spoken with Rebecca Vieyra, my “mentor,” about what work I would be doing this summer, and I had spent some time reviewing materials she had shared with me and thinking about how I would like to contribute to the projects that would be available to me this summer. No, what I was most anxious about was dressing properly.

I’m definitely a jeans-and-t-shirt kind of person. I still wear the same hoodies from when I was in 9th grade. It’s not that I don’t care about how I look, it’s just that this isn’t an area where I have almost any skills so I usually dress to be comfortable and don’t worry about the rest. This works fine at school and when doing research, but in an office setting I knew I had to wear something a little nicer.

I went out and bought some slacks and button-down shirts (ones that weren’t hole-y flannels, I mean), and I already had some nice shoes to wear. Still, I was anxious. I don’t really know how to match clothes (my normal outfits are pretty much all some shade of blue or grey), and I wanted to make sure I made a good first impression. Come Sunday night, I prepared my outfit as much as anything else, even though it was just slacks and a dress shirt. Now, after a week of working at ACP, I am pleased to report that my clothes don’t seem to be a huge deal. I even took a leap and wore a short-sleeved dress shirt on one of the hotter days.

On Friday, AAPT went to Astronomy on the Mall, and I worked at the booth with several others from AAPT talking about a lesson plan that Rebecca and I had created about lenses using small hydrophilic polymer balls (look up water pearls if you’re interested). That was a lot of fun, but I probably shouldn’t have worn my dress shoes. They’re pretty covered in dust now, and I have to figure out how to clean them a little bit before work tomorrow. Still, the evening was a success, I think. It felt a little bit like a middle school science fair that was 5 hours long, repeating the same spiel about lenses and answering the same questions again and again, but that certainly isn’t a complaint. It’s a lot of fun to show people cool stuff and answer their questions, and I was always pleased when someone asked a new question that I knew how to answer, or told some story about their own experience with science or astronomy. As an astro student as well as a physics student, I enjoyed talking to people about how telescopes work or what was going on at other booths.

I would count this first week as a success. I’m enjoying my work immensely, and I am definitely looking forward to going more in-depth with some of the projects I’ve started in my first week.

Things learned at summer internship:
✓ How to dress in an office
✓ How NOT to dress when standing on the mall for 5 hours
✓ How to survive a 75-minute commute on the metro at 6:45 AM
✓ How to clean up 200 bouncy water pearls that have spilled on the ground

Simon Wright